Documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis will run in the next federal election as an NDP candidate, he announced Monday.
Lewis is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate for the riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country during a campaign launch scheduled for Saturday. Liberal MP Patrick Weiler currently holds the seat.
As co-founder of progressive group The Leap, Lewis has pushed for major reforms to Canadian policy to respond to the climate crisis, inequality and racial injustice, championing a Green New Deal for Canada.
In a series of tweets on May 17, he expanded on that idea as he announced his candidacy, promoting “a Green New Deal for all” as well as a “just recovery from COVID-19,” reconciliation, decolonization and the return of government-held land to Indigenous communities.
“We're in a unique moment with the opportunity to fix the overlapping crises we face but only if we do it together, for the many, not the few,” said Lewis.
“We face the connected crises of climate emergency, pandemic, inequality, and racism. We need bold solutions — and it's clear that the people in power have none to offer, unless you consider increasing corporate handouts and oil and gas subsidies to be bold.”
Lewis has also recently called for "public ownership" of Greyhound, the bus service that announced it was slashing all routes in Canada. “Urgent scale-up of electric, made-in-Canada buses, connecting every community," he said.
Leap ideas from 'off-the-wall' to 'common sense'
The move by Lewis, who has also lectured in journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, makes him the latest family member to run for office as a New Democrat. His father, Stephen Lewis, was the leader of the Ontario NDP, while his grandfather, David Lewis, was leader of the federal NDP.
Documentary filmmaker and co-founder of The Leap @avilewis will run in the next federal election as an NDP candidate. “We face the connected crises of climate emergency, pandemic, inequality, and racism. We need bold solutions," he said Monday.
Climate action advocate and 350.org founder Bill McKibben welcomed the news, calling it “an important campaign, not just for B.C. and Canada but for the world” and saying Lewis was “not just another politician.”
The Leap was based on the Leap Manifesto, a Canadian political document published in 2015 alongside a documentary film by Lewis called This Changes Everything. The doc was based on the book of the same name written by Naomi Klein, who is married to Lewis.
The manifesto called for Canada to be "powered entirely by renewable energy" and a shift to a "non-polluting economy," an increase of mass transit and various other initiatives. Published at the end of the Harper government era, the document initially generated controversy within NDP circles. Then-premier Rachel Notley, the Alberta NDP leader, called it “naive,” “ill-informed” and “tone-deaf."
On Monday, federal NDP House leader and finance critic Peter Julian said he was “so happy” about Lewis stepping forward. “I know that you will fight for — and work hard for — your ‘bosses,’ the constituents of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country,” he tweeted.
Ontario NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre Joel Harden also called it “terrific news,” saying Lewis was an “outspoken voice for bold ideas and big organizing.”
The Leap organization itself, which said it will be “closing its doors this summer,” due in part to Lewis’ departure and that of executive director Katie McKenna, struck a triumphant tone in a statement on its website.
“When we launched The Leap Manifesto in 2015, the idea that the climate crisis demanded a bold and justice-based transformation of our economy and society was greeted, in establishment media at least, as a dangerous, off-the-wall proposition,” it said in a statement on its website.
“Now millions see that it is simple common sense. We are proud of the role The Leap played in expanding the boundaries of the possible, along with so many of our movement partners and supporters.”
Weiler says he understands why Lewis would run
Lewis is the former co-host of Al Jazeera’s doc series Fault Lines. He also hosted and produced CBC current affairs shows CounterSpin and On the Map, and hosted arts news program The New Music in the 1990s.
Weiler welcomed Lewis to the race and thanked him for putting his name forward to serve West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, in a statement sent to Canada's National Observer.
He said he was "proud of what has been accomplished in these realms in my time in office and over the last five and a half years," and has seen first hand how much the Liberal government has "already improved the lives of people in my riding."
Weiler said he was driven by the challenge of moving Canada to a more "sustainable, inclusive and equitable" future. "I welcome engaged candidates to represent all parties; anything that generates more interest in politics and democracy in the riding is a good thing," he said.
"I certainly understand why Avi Lewis would want to run in the most beautiful, interesting, and diverse riding in the country. I remain focused on working on behalf of and delivering for my constituents. I look forward to engaging all candidates on the issues that matter to our region and country when the time comes, such as on climate change, reconciliation and affordability."
Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:13 am ET May 18, 2021 with a statement from Weiler.